Category: The Hard Questions


If I’m Pregnant – What Should I Do?

As a young person still doing my schooling and living with my parents, I would be in big trouble if I got pregnant. Already my schooling takes up the vast majority of my time; when I’m not doing schooling, I’m watching shows at night or trying to have some enjoying-time in-between all the activities that take up the day. If I had a baby now, my whole life would be turned upside down . . .

Since I’m not married or anything, having a baby would be a lot of trouble, and someone may advise me to have an abortion. There’s all this controversy about abortion, with people picking prochoice or prolife sides and shouting slogans at one another: “It’s a woman’s right to choose.” “Abortion’s murder!” “Get out of my uterus.” “Give your baby a chance.”

Though I’m not having a baby and so I don’t have to worry about deciding what to do, maybe you do have to worry about it. Maybe very soon, you have to face that choice, and lots of people are going to tell you what to do.

But “it’s my choice, right?” Yes, it’s your choice. The question is, what will you choose? Are you in this difficult situation? Many other people have had to make hard choices. If it helps you, this movie I saw presents an interesting choice to seven young people who change their minds 180 degrees! I really had fun watching it – and a couple times I cried. Beginning first with a challenging scenario about what you would do in 1930s Nazi Germany if you were forced at gunpoint to do something horrible, this little 33 minutes swings to the present-day and asks a question that turned its seven interviewees’ minds upside down:

For more information, check out: prochoice, prolife, abortion, and If You’re Pregnant.

Judge Not Lest You be Judged?

“Don’t judge me! That’s what Jesus said.”

Have you ever been confronted by this statement? Were you trying to share the Good News of Christ or the fact that we are all sinners before God? Or did you use this statement yourself when someone was unjustly accusing you? Are we never to judge?

Many in the modern world repeat this statement. It’s become the mantra of accepting everyone and everything. It is said that no lifestyle or action should be criticized, since judging another person is above one’s calling. But before we accept this belief, we should examine more closely what Jesus actually said about judging:

Matthew 7:1-5:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Recently as I read these verses, I noticed the particular type of judging Jesus was talking about: hypocritical judging. Jesus is warning against people who judge others while they themselves are doing the same actions that they claim to loath. Notice that Jesus tells you to first “take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Jesus is saying that if we are, say, sleeping with another man’s wife, then we would be hypocrites to judge another man for playing around outside of marriage. “Reform your life first,” He says, “before you even think of judging someone else’s life.”

This is a very important point to remember. Too many of us criticize someone else’s pride, vanity, love of money, etc., without actually applying the judgment to our own lives to see if we are practicing these same things. In this we should be ashamed. Whenever we read a commandment of God, we first must see if we are obeying it before we go off and criticize someone else for disobeying it. Hypocritical judging is exactly what Jesus is warning against.

However, does this mean that we never judge? Are we never supposed to judge an action or lifestyle as wrong or harmful, or tell someone the dangers of it? Just recently I was debating the issue of abortion and the right of life for the unborn, and one commenter was saying we should not judge others. “It’s their decision,” was the general theme. Does Jesus’ injunction on judging cover this type as well?

If you watch Jesus’ actions and words throughout the Gospels, it is clear that some types of judgment are good. For example, Jesus Himself sensed the wickedness of the Pharisees (who were outraged that Jesus cast out a demon from a man), and He made these very judgmental comments:

“You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil” (Matthew 12:34-35).

Calling religious leaders a “brood of vipers” is just about as judgmental as you can get! Yet we hear Christ saying these very words! So was He not following His own injunction against judging?

Of course not! As we examined earlier, Christ warns against judging done in hypocrisy. If you are going to judge, you have to make sure that you yourself are not committing the offense. You must be able to have judicial judgment. Other Godly men besides Jesus practiced this proper judging, such as the apostle Paul:

“Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:34).

 

Here Paul, one of the original missionaries of the faith, whom Jesus appeared to Himself, specifically states in his letter to the Corinthian people that they are sinning and that this is shameful behavior. They should not be sinning, since they have knowledge of God. Paul makes proper judgment here, because he is not being hypocritical, but he is being kind in alerting them to the dangers to their souls and their walk with God in continuing this behavior.

 

Thus, if we are to judge anything, first we must know that we ourselves are not committing the offense. We must be holy just as our standard of judgment is holy. And second, we must do it in a spirit of love for the other person. The purpose of pointing out the error of another’s ways is to bring that person safely to a new frame of mind. We care about this person – that’s why we would risk offending him in order to tell him the truth of God that he so desperately needs. Just as a father would lovingly chide his child about the matches he is playing with, so we are to tell others in love the truth of God, even when it hurts. We do this not to hate, but to love as God loves.

Our 20 Seconds: Making Sense of Evil

As this Thanksgiving holiday nears, we are exhorted to be thankful for the blessings we have. But how can we be thankful when we see and face so much unfairness and evil in life? Can we understand this crazy world, let alone be thankful?

Reading Maus, a serious comic about the Holocaust, and watching the famous, based-on-life WWII miniseries Band of Brothers brought similar feelings to me. The Holocaust suddenly wasn’t just a word, but a real horror done by unspeakably evil men to normal people. This evil haunted me for hours as I walked outside in the beauty of a woodland’s autumn morning, my mind unable to concentrate on normal activities because I just couldn’t stop thinking of those Jews. Some had their skulls crushed in the gas chambers as they piled against the doorway, trying in vain to get out. Others broke their fingers climbing the walls. As I walked numbed in the horror, I felt both thankfulness and humility.

Why thankfulness? Because the problems in my life suddenly seemed vaporously trivial in comparison. The disagreements, discomforts – all seemed like nothing. How can I complain in anything? My grandparents were soon coming up, and we were worried that we did not have enough beds. My sister had suggested that the both of us sleep in our truck’s seats. The crazy idea suddenly became noble: Why worry about a slight inconvenience, when others have endured and survived so much more?

Why humility? I like to find a reason behind everything, and evil’s no exception. In history, the Holocaust actually had the effect of helping bring God’s people the Jews into Israel, their Promised Land, just as God had prophesied hundreds of years ago in the Old Testament, the Jewish Scriptures. He promised in Deuteronomy 30:2-3 that He would bring Israel back to the land even after they were scattered and persecuted throughout the world, and careful study of Ezekiel 4:3-6 shows that God prophesied 1948 as the date of Israel’s return (The Signature of God by Grant Jeffrey). God had turned around evil for good.

Yet despite these clear workings of God’s hand in the grand scheme, I strained to see His purposes within the microcosm of the concentration camps. Why were these Jews suffering so, so much, with no hope? The magnitude of this event hushed my mind into silent, awe-struck humbleness. Surely I cannot know the purposes of God in the ways of life. Life is so complex, so mysterious, it defies figuring out. I thought of the 6 billion people living life on this planet, in one year out of thousands of years in history, and I felt small. And awe-inspired.

How can I know what this is, this life? My life is short and insignificant. Who will know me when I am gone? Who will know I ever lived? I cannot even fathom what a billion people look like – the 6,000 stars visible to the naked eye are already too many for me to count. Yet all these billions have lives just like me. It suddenly felt breathtaking, to be so small and know so little. How little we know about life. What a mystery we live each day, not knowing what is happening a few feet away from us in the next house. Not knowing when we will die, who we will meet, or what lessons our lives will teach.

Someone may blame God for the evil that happens in life. But we are like children, and He is our Father. What does a child think when he is punished with time-out? When he is forced to do homework rather than play with his friends? Either the child will hate his father or trust that his father knows best, even when the child cannot understand why. How can the child know homework will help him prepare for college and for the workforce to raise a family, years beyond his present time? Such things seem too far away, yet they are in reality too wonderful for the child and beyond his comprehension. So it is with evil. Either you will hate God or trust Him despite not knowing every reason why. A God who can create the intricacies of DNA can certainly have a purpose for every evil, yet I do not know how He fashioned DNA nor how He will fix every wrong. I can only trust Him as a child trusts his father.

Yet even fathers have mercy on their children. Sometime after I read the horrors of the Holocaust in Maus, I watched an episode of Band of Brothers, “Why We Fight.” The Americans were occupying Germany in its waning days and wondering why they had their lives turned upside down just to fight these people. Comrades had died, wives back home grew cold, and lives were marred in disillusionment with the evils of war. Why where they here?

Yet a horrifying discovery in the forest answered their quest for meaning. A patrol found a concentration camp. Such things had only been rumors before, but now the full force of German evil became plain as the American soldiers stepped into a camp of pale, emaciated bodies barely grasping life within their barred prison rags. Lying on the ground were dead bodies so thin their skin outlined only a skeleton almost unrecognizable as human.

As the dazed Americans mingled among them, these gaunt figures reached out their hands and grasped a soldier’s sleeve, like the woman of old seeking healing with a touch of Jesus’ hem. One man brought his dead wife or daughter to the Americans’ feet. Another man saluted the soldiers. They gathered around the Americans like they were saviors. They were.

I cried. Suddenly I realized that these people were not hopelessly suffering – God was saving them. As the terror of the Holocaust spread across Europe, God was kicking Americans out of warm beds and comfortable lives. He was training them in war and sending them across an ocean to a land many had never seen, to save men, women, and children whom they had never met. Many died in combat without seeing the fruit of their objective, but whether they knew it or not, they were all saviors from the hand of God. Hundreds of death camps were liberated and the oppressed peoples of Europe were freed. That single Jewish salute implied so much to be thankful for.

As the credits rolled, I saw life anew. Life is like a movie we watch, an intricate weaving of plot and character two hours long. History threads through its actors small and great. Each of our lives is a 20-second snippet in the film, filled with good and bad, beauty and ugliness. Taken by itself, 20 seconds in a motion picture is nothing – we can hardly infer much about the plot or lesson. Some 20 seconds jolt you to recoil, while others overflow you with joy. Yet how can we judge a whole movie based on 20 seconds?

My life has been a pretty few seconds of comfort and beauty, of things and people I enjoy intimately. I’ve often asked myself why God made my life so beautiful, so wondrous. I know that others do not have the same experience; their 20 seconds are so much darker. And then there is life after death and life in the spiritual world – another realm of the story that is not visible in my 20 seconds. How can I know life when it’s only a tiny snapshot of a much longer reel?

Yet God has given us the synopsis for the movie – the inside scoop from the Producer Himself. The perfect story He has given in His Word, the Bible. He shows the main characters and the high points of the plot. He shows how evil works for good. And He has also stepped into the set of the story. He has become a man in the person of Jesus Christ, two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. He stepped in as the main character in this dramatic adventure and suffered the ultimate unfairness: unmerited execution of an innocent as a criminal. He was humiliated, tortured, and went through Hell – for us. He paid the punishment for our evils, for the daily Holocausts we pit against each other in our petty hatreds and jealousies and superiority-complexes. And then He rose from the dead to conquer death forever as a promise of our own resurrection. And for those who place their trust in Him as their true Father and Savior, He has promised a life after this life that cannot even be put into words:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Without eternal life after death, life here does not make sense. Without Divine justice in the world to come, justice here fails to be fulfilled. Without Divine everlasting Love, love here fades away in death and time. Without the Word of God, our words and deeds fade away and come to naught. Without God, life is nothing: We are just dust wandering in the wind.

Yet we are not without these things. God is here. He brings sense to life, even when we cannot always understand Him. He is too wonderful to understand completely, like a stunning autumn storm that strikes breathtaking fear in our hearts and rains down blessings on our souls. Through Him, we can trust that our 20 seconds will be an indispensable piece of the two-hour show. We are part of His story. And that is something to be thankful for.

Are God’s Judgments Evil?

God wiped out the peoples of Canaan, He imposes eternal punishment in hell for unbelievers, and He will destroy the world in the end times for its disobedience. Would a good, loving God judge like this?

Canaan: Justice or Genocide?

Was God committing genocide by commanding Israel to destroy Canaanite peoples? No, for the Canaanites were wicked: They sacrificed their children to idols (Psalm 106:34-39). This and other evils permeated their society to the deepest levels. God wouldn’t be good if He didn’t lay down justice on them. God even restrained His judgment upon one group, the Amorites, for hundreds of years until their evil became too great – He gave time to repent (Genesis 15:16).

Revelation: World Atrocity or Wicked World?

What about the world destruction prophesied in Revelation, where many will die in the end time judgment? Yet God didn’t initiate this carnage – it’s started by evil men, particularly one man, the Antichrist. His evil forces kill a fourth of the world (Revelation 6). These martyrs are God’s people (Revelation 6:9-10), who cry:

  • “‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’”

Thus, God is not yet judging if His people are calling for justice. The Antichrist and his followers are the ones killing a fourth of the earth. The Antichrist is worse than Hitler, yet skeptics claim God is unjust for not punishing Hitler and his SS. Yet Revelation reveals God’s justice, for God finally crushes the worst Hitler.

On one hand, when God is merciful to men, waiting for them to repent, skeptics claim God is unjust for not punishing evil. Then when God enacts justice, skeptics claim He is too harsh. Yet God alone knows when to be merciful and when to be just.

Hell: Deserved or Undeserved?

Why would God send so many people to Hell if He loved them? Actually, He didn’t have to love anyone – we don’t deserve it. Just think: In our short life of both good and bad deeds, do we truly deserve Heaven’s eternal happiness? Our good deeds are not enough for an infinite reward. Yet do we deserve Hell? Consider this: God is our Creator, Sustainer, and Blesser. We owe Him everything, because everything came from Him; while He owes us nothing. Yet we forget Him and hardly give Him thanks, but have rebelled against Him by disrespecting Him and our fellowmen created in the image of God (Genesis 9:6). Because He created all value, He has all value and is infinitely worthy. What is the punishment for willful and continual rebellion against a One of infinite value? It is eternal punishment – so we all deserve hell.

But Isn’t Man Good at Heart?

Every newspaper and news channel in the world reveals that man is not good but evil at heart. Robbery, extortion, cheating, lying, murder. From the smallest to the greatest. Even good deeds are tainted with selfishness – are we really donating that $10 because we’re kind or because we want to look better than others?

Look at dictators. They are windows to the soul, because their absolute control gives them every freedom to do either good or bad. If the human heart is good, then they should be the best people of all! Yet their reputations are the worst of humanity: Stalin, Mao, Hitler. Without social or legal restraints, they show their true hearts. We all have the potential to be as bad as they, but we are constrained from fully revealing our evil nature. If we lie, we get caught. If we steal, we go to jail. We often treat people good only to get our desires. Our heart is “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). That’s why we never tell our fantasies to grandma – we don’t titillate over charity to the poor.

This truth is hard to accept. A criminal always thinks the verdict is unjust and the judge, unfair. We are the same. Rather than objective truth seekers, we are guilty and want to hide it. So we claim that our Judge is unjust or doesn’t even exist. Our motive is pride. That’s why the proud don’t find God, only the humble who admit their need for God’s mercy (1 Peter 5:5).

Forgive and Forget?

God can’t just forget and ignore our wrongs. That would compromise justice – He would be a crooked Judge. We always criticize crooked judges – but in the end, we ourselves want to be the exception. It’s human nature to want justice until it shines its light on us. God can’t forget justice: That’s why God judges. But that’s also why He died on the cross. He paid the price for our infinite punishment with the blood of His infinite worth, so justice has been fulfilled. Thus, He joins together infinite justice and infinite mercy – we are saved from our evil by the goodness of God.

For more information, askwitnessingGod@gmail.com

See now that I, I am He,

And there is no god besides Me;

It is I who put to death and give life.

I have wounded and it is I who heal,

And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.

Deuteronomy 32:39

What a hard, awesome statement declaring the absolute sovereignty of God. What a sobering thought, that the Lord has the right to wound me or to heal me, to give me life or to take it away. The Scriptures, especially the Old Testament, abound with such declarations of His absolute rulership over all in the universe. No other doctrine stirs such fear and awe and humility.

Yet how often have people shied away from this Biblical concept of God, concentrating only on His attribute of love, praising only the soft, friendly image of deity. But of course never, ever, is love bad, for “God is love.” Yet He is more than just love; He is the King over all heaven and earth. He is not just the Savior we befriend, but the Sovereign we revere.

Yet many revolt at the idea that God kills or causes suffering. “Would not He in all His all-powerful sovereignty be no better than a murderous tyrant?” they say. And if God were just another human being, puny and corrupt, a being not worthy to destroy what he cannot even create, the objection would be correct.

But God is not a man. And therein lies the chasm of difference extending to infinity. For God in a sense is infinitely higher than man: He is the Creator. Does not the One who makes have a right to do whatever He pleases with His handiwork? This very point upon God’s rightful sovereignty is what Paul stresses in Romans 9:18-23 when discussing why God hardened Pharaoh’s heart:

So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to

me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you,

O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you

make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the

same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although

willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience

vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory

upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory . . .

In answering the objection to God’s absolute sovereignty, that man would have no responsibility for his sins, Paul could have used the argument that though man is a slave to sin and cannot help but sin without God’s changing his heart, man loves his wickedness and desires to do it with all his will. Man knows full well that he is transgressing and rebelling against God and His order; and since no one forces man to sin but man loves to sin with all his heart, he is fully responsible for participating in his own pleasure, sin.

But Paul did not use that argument. Instead, Paul under the guidance of the Holy Spirit replied, “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” We do not have a right to question! Who are we but clay pots in the Potter’s hands, made as we are for His own good pleasure? Why should we complain if He makes some ceramics as the pinnacle of His creation and loves them and sets them upon His mantlepiece in glory, while others He fashions to hold the scrapings from the plate? Paul in his reply was not so much concerned with satisfying our need for explanations as he was with setting firm our conviction of the grand, absolute sovereignty of God. He owes no one any blessing or any explanation.

Yet this God, this Fashioner of worlds and heavens and stars and atoms, is infinitely good and infinitely love. This very God enthroned beyond the galaxies came down to earth, was born with the lowing cattle, lived without a place called home to lay His head. How every dust particle must have rejoiced at their Creator’s touch when He walked the roads of Judea! He died agonized and humiliated, the death of a criminal. O, how the sky and the earth mourned with lightning and quaking in that hour, as the Sovereign suffered for mere creatures!

But they are, we are, His creatures, the ones He chose before the foundation of creation to love with everlasting love. How love is praised when one lowly man sacrifices his life for another, but how much more is this love glorified when a King sacrifices His life for the lowliest of His people? When He loses His life for those who hate Him! Some would call it foolishness, but is not the wisdom of God the foolishness of the world? For God in His perfect sovereignty will bring all that He loves, all those of His who hate and despise Him, to faith in Him. Not one can be lost from our sovereign God’s arms until each one enters into glory and worships Him in heaven.

And so, the sovereignty of God glorifies His love. The fact that this awesome God stooped down to love us and suffer to save us makes His love so much everlastingly more incomprehensible in depth and width and breadth! What an ocean of mercy extending to infinity! O, now we can begin to grasp the sheer magnitude of the simple phrase, “God is love!” Now we can know why the Old Testament so stressed the sovereignty and power of God, so that when the New Testament revealed the love of the cross we will fall to the ground and cry and rejoice, “Our Creator came to us! Our holy Judge became our Savior – our Sovereign has become our Friend! Glory be to God in the highest! Glory in His mercy and grace!”

Now we can rest with confidence upon His promise that “all things work together for good for those who love God,” for God in His sovereignty will bring His perfect plan to fruition. If He has granted us disease, goodness is there. If He has granted us persecution, goodness is there. If He has granted us death, goodness is there. All the good and evil of the world He is working to a glorious goal in perfect sovereignty:

No eye has seen,

No ear has heard,

And no mind has imagined

What God has prepared

For those who love Him.

I Corinthians 2:9

May we all glory in the sovereignty of God.